You’ve probably seen TV shows, watched movies or read books where the character who is a wine connoisseur is stuffy pretentious socialite type, who only drinks wine made in France with names you can’t pronounce, and a single bottle costs more than your car payment. The key to being an effective wine connoisseur is not just to know about different wines, but to learn wine pairing with different foods. In reality, being a wine connoisseur is less about buying expensive wines you can’t afford, and more about learning how to buy the best wines that quench your palate in any price range, and that are paired well with your meal.
I spoke to sommelier I know, and he once told me start with a good $20 bottle of wine and over time, and again within your budget, you can slowly increase the price point of your wines as you learn to distinguish the differences between a $20 and $50 bottle of wine.
Lesson One on How to Become a Wine Connoisseur without Breaking the Bank – White and Red wines?
A wine connoisseur doesn’t just say they drink red wine or white wine, since that’s like someone asking do you like red cars or white cars. You would probably respond with my favorite car is a 1988 Candy Apple Red Camaro Z28 or a Jet Black Porshe Carrera. The same goes for wine.
White wines come in variety of white grapes and blends, just as red wines are either made from a single red grape, such as Red Zinfadel or blend of red grapes, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a blend of Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc grapes.
Back to Zinfadel for a minute, there is no white zinfandel grapes. White Zinfadel refers to the processing of the red Zinfadel grape to produce a white or rose grape juice. The Zinfadel grape is a deep red color grape, and through a saignée processing, which is French for bleed, removes some of the red grape juice, which leaves a sweet white or rose juice, hence the name White Zinfadel.
Go to a winery or tasting room, and sample different types of wines. You will not only learn what types of wines you like, you will also learn what aspect of the wines appeals to your palate, such as the blend of grapes, tannins, aging, growing region, etc. Ask questions.
Find a wine shop that has quality wines at every price point, and a staff that is friendly, knowledgeable and willing to part with their experience to help educate you so you can become a wine connoisseur who knows about different types of wines at different price ranges and how to pair foods with your favorite wines.
What is Your Price Point?
If you don’t have a specific price point in mind, most sommeliers say to start at around $20 to $25 per bottle, or just drink what you like regardless of the price.
Why $20-$25 per bottle. One word – quality. Growing and producing grapes is not free. The water, bottles and electricity and the winemakers time are not free, either. When you buy a $5 bottle of wine, you have to give up something to get a bottle of wine from the field to the store shelf for such a bargain, and more likely than not it’s the quality of the grapes. A cheaper wine may be the result of a second or third press of the grapes, which is often mixed with other third press grapes, or chemicals to extract as much juice from the skins as possible.
While you can sometimes find a gem for $8 to$10 a bottle, you need to ask a lot of questions, and visit multiple wine shops to find these diamonds in the rough.
At $15 to $20 per bottle, you are getting the first press of real grape juice. It may be a blend of several mid-priced grapes, but you are getting pure gold. When you open a bottle of a $20 Zinfadel vs a $5 Zin, you will get a more aromatic flavor that lingers in your mouth, like your favorite song, rather than hits of flavor that disappear as soon as you swallow. Cheaper wine often has a bit of a vinegar hint that can be quite unpleasing.
Popular Wines under $25 that will Impress?
I have had the pleasure of tying these wines at different occasions, and am sure you will enjoy them as much as I have. With these offerings, you can begin your journey to becoming a Wine Connoisseur without Breaking the Bank.
Rosenblum Cellars Red Zinfandel Cuvée XXXVII. Rosenblum buys Zinfandel grapes from several growing regions in California, to produce a fruity, aromatic Red Zinfadel wine. At $13.00 per bottle, this cost conscious, yet delicious wine is destined to be a favorite at all your gatherings.
Herzog Cellars Merlot is a semi sweet medium-bodied wine and finishes with moderate tannins, perfect when serving chicken or beef. While many Kosher wines sell for $25 and more per bottle, at $13, the Herzog Merlot will quickly become your go-to red wine.
V. Sattui Gamay Rouge. You may never have heard of V. Sattui in Napa, CA, but once you try their wines, only available directly through the winery, this may be your favorite for any special occasion.
This rose wine has notes of red-ripe strawberry, cranberry, apple blossom and maraschino cherry that dance in the mouth. These fruit flavors and relatively high acids are balanced by a slight natural sweetness derived from the juice of the grapes.
La Crema Chardonnay. This delicious and inexpensive has a round and rich tone with ripe pear and caramel-vanilla flavors. At $18 per bottle, this delicious and affordable white wine will have your guests positive it cost twice as much.
San Antonio Winery Heritage Blanc. San Antonio Winery has been a stable in Los Angeles since 1917. San Antonio Winery Heritage Blanc at $18 per bottle, is an aromatic blend of several wine grapes, inluding: Viognier, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, that delivers a vibrant and delicious, with light freshness, texture, and depth. The nose reveals exotic aromas of rose petals and fresh pear, while the palate shows ripe flavors of lychee and quince.
Learn the Art of Wine Pairing
Knowing about the best wines and various price points is important for an enjoyable experience. To round out your experience as a wine connoisseur is to learn how to pair wines with different types of foods, such as fish, chicken, meat at desserts.